Video shows missing barista was abducted

casey.grove@adn .comFebruary 3, 2012 

Anchorage police say surveillance video shows that a man kidnapped 18-year-old Samantha Koenig at the Midtown coffee stand where she was finishing up work Wednesday night.

The armed man walked to the Common Grounds Espresso stand on Tudor Road near Gambell Street about 8 p.m. Wednesday and forced Koenig to leave with him on foot, headed east toward the Old Seward Highway, said Detective Slawomir Markiewicz.

The turquoise coffee stand with purple trim sits in the parking lot of the Alaska Club at 630 E. Tudor Road. A large snow berm makes it difficult to see from Tudor Road.

Markiewicz would not say what type of weapon police think the man carried or how he entered the coffee hut, but there's "little doubt" that Koenig's disappearance was anything other than an abduction, the detective said. That's based on Koenig's demeanor and the man's actions as seen in the video, Markiewicz said.

"The video's pretty compelling," he said.

Police did not release a detailed description of the man Friday other than saying he appeared to be wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and possibly a baseball cap. Koenig is described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. Markiewicz said the man was significantly taller.

Koenig's boyfriend, Dwayne, planned to pick up Koenig after her shift ended at 8 p.m., said James Koenig, her father. Markiewicz said the boyfriend was delayed by work.

"By the time he arrived, she was gone," Markiewicz said.

All the cash in the coffee stand also went missing when Koenig vanished, said Common Grounds owner Michelle Duncan. The door was locked and the windows boarded and locked, which is normal closing procedure, Duncan said. But what's unusual is that the security alarm wasn't set and nothing was cleaned, Duncan said.

'SOMETHING VERY SERIOUS'

Melanie Ornelas, a morning-shift barista at the coffee stand, said there were cups of coffee left out on the counter when she arrived to open up, and Koenig's belongings were left in her cubby box. Koenig left a note asking if she needed to work Saturday, she said.

"It looked like, in the middle of (making) a drink, she just left," Ornelas said.

Still, before anyone watched the footage from one of the surveillance cameras attached to the stand, the messy shop wasn't enough to immediately raise concerns, Duncan said.

"We didn't even have a red flag," Duncan said. "We didn't know anything was wrong until we found out she hadn't been heard from."

Police at first called Koenig's disappearance a "suspicious" missing person case. By midday Friday, it was upgraded to an abduction.

"It went from 'somebody didn't come home" to something very serious," said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker, who briefed reporters Friday afternoon near the coffee stand as snow poured down from the sky.

Two detectives questioned Ornelas and another barista in a black, unmarked police car about 2 p.m. At the opposite end of the parking lot, James "Sonny" Koenig handed out rolls of tape and thousands of fliers with his daughter's description, the word "KIDNAPPED" printed in bold letters across the top. Concerned friends came by, each giving James a hug and taking a stack of fliers to post around Anchorage, Eagle River, Palmer and Wasilla. Some of the 7,000 fliers -- which were donated by Kinko's and the University of Alaska Anchorage -- were already put up in coffee shops, taxis and buses earlier in the day, James said.

James said he knew someone kidnapped his daughter long before police called the case an abduction. Samantha lived with him -- she likes video games and going to the movies, he said -- and always kept in contact. It wasn't like her to just disappear without warning, and James talked to her by cellphone about an hour-and-a-half before her shift ended, he said.

When he hadn't heard from Samantha by late Wednesday, James started calling her repeatedly.

"I called her cellphone until the battery finally died, and texted it and everything," James said. "It would ring until it went to voice mail. And then, noon yesterday, it just went to voice mail, straight out."

'ANYONE COULD BE A SUSPECT'

Samantha had worked for Common Grounds a little less than a month and was enthusiastic about her job, said Duncan, the owner. She was energetic, bubbly, a people person, she said.

"She had already built a loyal customer base," Duncan said.

Two baristas are now staffing the coffee stand at all times, and hours have been cut back, Duncan said.

Ornelas said the stand has a good security system, and before Wednesday the possibility of an abduction seemed farfetched to her and the other baristas.

"It is weird. I mean, it could happen to anyone," Ornelas said. "Everyone, I think, is like, 'Oh, that could never happen to me,' but it very well could happen to anyone."

For now, the baristas were trying to stay positive and hoping the police found "Sammy" in good shape, Ornelas said.

At least two dozen detectives, as well as officers with the Anchorage Police Department's Special Assignments Unit, Vice Unit and patrol officers were on the case, Detective Markiewicz said. The investigators were working around the clock following leads, conducting interviews and analyzing more surveillance camera footage from surrounding businesses, he said.

The investigators will not be releasing video footage or a still image from the surveillance video, Markiewicz said.

Court records show Samantha Koenig filed for a protective order against a man in November. But she didn't show up in court, and the order was never issued.

Markiewicz said the investigation included looking into the circumstances of the protective order among many other things but declined to comment further on how it might be involved in Koenig's disappearance.

As of late Friday, no suspects had been identified, he said.

"Anyone could be a suspect at this point," Markiewicz said.

Police ask that anyone with information on Samantha Koenig's whereabouts call 786-8900.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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